Watada is restricted to post after unit leaves
The Hawaii native faces possible charges for refusing Iraq duty
First Lt. Ehren Watada has been forced to move to living quarters at an Army post in Washington state after refusing to accompany his Stryker brigade combat team, which left for Iraq.
Erin Bronson, Fort Lewis spokeswoman, said last night that Watada, 28, had to give up his off-post apartment "to ensure his availability" during an investigation into his decision to refuse to go to Iraq.
Watada, assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, stayed at the headquarters of his 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry, yesterday while his unit prepared to take a bus to nearby McChord Air Force Base. Just before 7 a.m., the unit left McChord without Watada.
The 1996* Kalani High School graduate has been ordered to remain on duty with his unit, Bronson said, and his off-post passes have been revoked.
Joe Pieck, Fort Lewis spokesman, said Watada has been ordered to remain in his unit's area and not to leave Fort Lewis. However, Pieck said Watada still can go to facilities at Fort Lewis such as chapel, the dining facility and the commissary.
Initially, Watada, an artillery officer, was ordered not to talk to anyone other than his civilian attorney, Eric Seitz, who is now traveling in Europe.
In a written statement, Seitz said, "By placing a complete gag order on Lt. Watada, the military has again shown that their first concern is silencing Lt. Watada's speech in opposition to the illegal war in Iraq. We will immediately challenge these highly questionable and improper restrictions."
Late last night, the Army rescinded that order, allowing Watada to talk to anyone.
About 4,000 soldiers from Fort Lewis' 3rd Stryker Combat Brigade Team are deploying to Iraq on their second combat tour in two years.
Watada, who twice tried unsuccessfully to resign his commission or be allowed to serve in some other combat zone, like Afghanistan, believes that the war and occupation in Iraq are illegal and that participation in the war is also illegal. He has said he is not a conscientious objector and intends to defend himself based on the illegality of the Iraq war and occupation.
"At this point no charges have been filed in 1st Lt. Watada's case, and none will be filed until the commander has had a chance to review all of the facts of the case and consult with the staff judge advocate," according to a news release from Fort Lewis.
Watada has said he has no regrets in refusing orders to report for combat duty in Iraq.
He has acknowledged that he faces possible court-martial charges, dishonorable discharge and jail time for refusing to participate in the Iraq war. His family has said that he has gotten death threats since he publicly denounced the war on June 7.
Watada enlisted in the Army in March 2003 before he graduated from Hawaii Pacific University with a degree in finance. His active-duty obligation was supposed to end in December, but he was extended until next year, when his unit returns to Fort Lewis.
In his January request to resign his commission, Watada said, "I am whole-heartedly opposed to the continued war in Iraq, the deception used to wage this war, and the lawlessness that has pervaded every aspect of our civilian leadership."
Watada's supporters have declared this Tuesday as a national day of support.
In a written statement, his mother, Carolyn Ho, who flew to Seattle, said, "My son's decision to refrain from deploying to Iraq comes through much soul searching. It is an act of patriotism. It is a statement to all Americans, to men and women in uniform, that they need not remain silent out of fear, that they have the power to turn the tide of history: to stop the destruction of a country and the killing of untold numbers of innocent men, women, and children."
Judy Linehan of Military Families Speak Out said, "As the mother of an officer who deployed to Iraq with Lt. Ehren Watada's Stryker Brigade in their first mission, I know the human cost of war intimately. I stand in solidarity with Lt. Watada as he breaks ranks with a commander-in-chief who has flaunted international law with impunity in the prosecution of this illegal war and occupation of an unarmed country. The lieutenant's quiet resolve and quest for truth facing into our government's fabricated deceptions carry hope to a world that trusts in the rule of law."
But Quang X. Pham, former U.S. Marine Corps major and pilot and Gulf War veteran, said, "If Lt. Ehren Watada wants to stop the war in Iraq, he ought to complete his service obligation, then write op-eds or a book or lead a protest. Watada knew what he was getting into when he voluntarily enlisted after 9/11. ... He's going to be martyred by the anti-war movement."